Thursday, November 29, 2012

Dancing with the Stars Season 11 Celebrities and their Pro Dancers

I love watching Dancing with the Stars (DWTS), it's my guilty pleasure. I admit it, I'm one of their viewers who love seeing the costumes, the ballroom dancing, the celebrities who are unexpectedly good as well as the unbelievably lousy. For a reality show it has all the angst, anxiety, and conflicts as well as grace under pressure, touching moments, and triumphant achievements all wrapped in a gauzy, flowing gown paired with a top hat. Season 10 of DWTS was a duel between a top Olympian, Evan Lysacek and a top performing Pussycat Doll, Nicole Scherzinger. Nicole Scherzinger along with pro dancer Derek Hough took home the Mirrorball Trophy with an amazing jive to Proud Mary.
The celebrity cast of Season 11 has been announced along with their pro dance partners.

The Ladies

Jennifer Grey. She is best known for her part as Baby in Dirty Dancing and we really haven't heard from her since. I hope everyone remembers that she's an actor who danced, there shouldn't be any accusations that she shouldn't be in the show because she's a dancer. Grey is paired with Derek Hough; she'll be in good hands with Hough who is a top notch choreographer, thoughtful teacher, and considerate dance partner. I have high hopes that they'll perform very well.
Bristol Palin. Best knows as the former Governor of Alaska's daughter and pushed into the spotlight because of her out of wedlock pregnancy, I look forward to getting to know Bristol. She's had some bad experiences and I want her to enjoy herself and even win. Her pro dance partner is Mark Ballas, a creative choreographer and a tough taskmaster, I think he can pull some great performances out of her because of her athleticism.
Brandy. Where has she been? I look forward to seeing her do well with her dance partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, a demanding partner who can handle a strong personality like hers. I expect some great performances out ot this pair.
Margaret Cho. The comedian will be dancing with Louis Van Amstel who coached another comedian, Niecy Nash, in Season 10. Van Amstel was able to bring out some great dance moves from Nash, however, her weight was a challenge in their dance programs. That will not be the case with Cho so I am interested in what performances will occur out of this pairing.
Audrina Partridge. Known for her recently terminated reality show, The Hills, she is fit and younger than Kate Gosselin (Oh my god, she was so bad!), so she should do well with pro dancer, Tony Dovolani, who really suffered teaching Gosselin (Oh my god, she was unbelievably bad!). Dovolani deserves a good partner, I hope Partridge responds well under his guidance.
Florence Henderson. Yay, I get to see Mrs. Brady in action! I don't expect her to do well, I'll just enjoy whatever performance she has with pro dancer Corky Ballas (his son is pro dancer Mark Ballas).

The Gentlemen

Mike Sorrentino. Well known for his reality show, Jersey Shore, he is buff and considered hot. His pro dance partner, Karina Smirnoff, is leggy and sexy. If this pair has chemistry, they'll burn the screen!
Kurt Warner. A former quarterback for the Rams, Giants, and Cardinals, he should do well, assuming he's kept himself fit. Athletes do well in the show because they're disciplined and are used to using their body. His pro dance partner is Anna Trebunskaya who came in second last season with Evan Lysacek. I'm looking to see if Kurt and Anna will win the Mirrorball Trophy this year.
Rick Fox. A former basketball player, he should also go far because of his athleticism. He is paired with Cheryl Burke, who has previous won the Mirrorbal Trophy twice, each time with an athlete. Burke is also a tough taskmaster but athletes are used to that and respond well to her coaching. Chad Ochocinco reached the semi-finals because of her.
David Hasselhoff. Baywatch co-star Pamela Anderson must have persuaded Hasselhoff by telling him how fun it was to dance on the show, because he's on board! I have no idea how he'll do. His pro dance partner is Kym Johnson, and won Season 9 with Donny Osmond, so he is in good hands with her assuming that he'll work hard.
Kyle Massey. I don't know much about Massey but his pro dance partner is Lacey Schwimmer, a good dancer. This pair is young and funky and should be fun to watch. Their challenge is to get their fans to watch this show and vote for him because, he's not that well known as a household name.
Michael Bolton. He must have been where Brandy has been because I've lost sight of him as well. I like his songs so I want him to go far. Chelsie Hightower is his pro dance partner, she's a good dancer but I'm not convinced that she's an effective dance teacher. I have no idea how this pair will do.
Dancing With the Stars Season 11 starts on Monday, September 20 at 8PM, ET.

Originally published 9/1/2010

Dancing with the Stars, Season 11 is off to a Fast Start and a Shocking First Elimination

It's on! This field of celebrity hopefuls with their professional partners have some depth as some had some really good starts and there are several pairs that look very promising. And then there are several pairs who are painful to watch. There are a total of 12 couples in all. Each couple was assigned a particular dance: Cha Cha or Viennese Waltz. One couple will be eliminated on Tuesday - it's different from last season where the elimination was after two dances. Scores are determined according to a combination; 50% comes from the judges' scores (topmost total score being 30) and 50% coming from audience votes. The lowest-scoring couple will have to leave the competition. Who will be eliminated?

Cha Cha Pairs

Audrina Patridge and Tony Dovolani. This pair started off the competition and they gave it a great start. Audrina can move and has some talent but was a little hesitant but gave it a very good try. Tony has a celebrity partner with dancing ability (Thank goodness!). For those of you who don't know, Tony's partner last season was awkward and self-pitying reality star Kate Gosselin who really gave him a hard time. I hope they stay around because they could grow into a great dance team. Score: 19
Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas. Bristol is known for being the daughter of rising political kingmaker, Sarah Palin. In the spotlight for the first time under her own merits, Bristol did very well. It's obvious that she's never had a dance lesson, but it's also obvious that the girl can move. I would like her to stay around and get a chance to develop her talent. Score: 18
Kyle Massey and Lacey Schwimmer. This pair is so cute. Kyle has some great dance moves, charming personality, and so much fun to watch. Lacey took a break last season but she's a blonde! This pair can do very well and I'd like to see Lacey push him to do more challenging dances. Score: 23
Forence Henderson and Corky Ballas. I can't believe Mrs. Brady is 76 years old and she also has some great dance moves. I also had no idea that she can swear so much and still be so classy. This is another couple that would be fun to watch. Score: 18
David Hasselhoff and Kym Johnson. It amazes me that he is a huge star in Germany...why? The Hoff gave it the old college try however, although the spirit is willing the body seems more resistant. Still, I hope he doesn't get eliminated because he is very engaging. Score: 15
Mike Sorrentino (aka The Situation) and Karina Smirnoff. Not good and the reason for that is because he only had five days of practice because his reality show stopped taping only recently. I can't believe he couldn't make arrangements, I know DWTS would always try to accommodate him but I don't think he's taking this show too seriously. I would eliminate him if it were up to me. Score: 15

Viennese Waltz Pairs

Kurt Warner and Anna Trebunskaya. As one of the most popular and a winning quarterback in NFL history, you want to root for him, however, he will need a couple more weeks before he can build a technique and I hope he won't be eliminated before then because he wants to work at it. His bad posture and awkwardness could be minimized with a few more weeks of practice. Score: 19
Rick Fox and Cheryl Burke. Another winning athlete, this time in the NBA, Rick did very well, he has great posture, and showed some flair and elegance. Would love to see more of his dancing ability and technique honed over the next few weeks. Score: 22
Margaret Cho and Louis Van Amstel. They made a calculated risk and it didn't pan out. They tried to dance the Viennese Waltz comically. It started out okay but her angry face and intentional stumbles was too much comedy and not enough dance. It's a shame because it looked like there could be something there so I want her around to see if it's worth watching a transformation. Score: 15
Brandy and Maxim Schmerkovskiy. Brandy has great dance ability but can sometimes be too forceful. She also has a great personality and is fun to watch so I want to see Max train her for more challenging choreography. Score: 23
Michael Bolton and Chelsie Hightower. He was hunched over and tight and it's reflected in his dance performance. It's understandable that he's nervous however he is a performer so I was surprised he didn't do better. I'd like to see more of his abilities develop so I hope he's allowed to stick around. Score: 16
Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough. It was a very fluid performance and also very touching. In the rehearsals she cried because the practice reminded her of her times with Patrick Swayze when they filmed on Dirty Dancing, and you could see she was still grieving. A very poignant dance for her. Score: 24
Come back Tuesday to see which pair is the first to be eliminated.

Shocking First Elimination!

The first celerity to be eliminated was ... David Hasselhoff!!!
I know he wasn't that good but he has a charming personality. I thought he would be around for at least a couple more weeks!

Originally published 9/20/2010

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Movie Review: Eat, Pray, Love (2010)

Julia Roberts is the main character in this movie, so you can pretty much tell it's a chick flick. If you didn't realize it by looking at the movie poster, you certainly would have realized it by the time you sat down with your popcorn and soda. Groups of women had come to see the movie. Now most of them know about the movie because it's the movie version of Eat, Pray, Love the novel. I haven't read the novel, after watching this movie, I don't think I will read the novel. The premise of Eat, Pray, Love is pretty standard. A young, successful woman has an identity crisis and runs away to Europe. In this movie, the difference is that the woman runs away to Rome, then Naples, then India, then Bali.

Ms. Roberts plays Liz Gilbert, a young writer who realizes that life with her indecisive husband wasn't happiness and decides to make a change. The character is pleasant enough and Roberts gives us glimpses of depth in the character, however the movie doesn't really flesh it out. The viewer isn't really clear about why she's so unhappy in the marriage. There is an early scene where the Gilbert character realizes that she's so unhappy that she decides to pray to God to give her an answer. Then she meets another character that influences her to go to his yogi's ashram in India. How she thought this would help her in her quest for fulfillment isn't really clear.
The Italian segment is pretty much one big cliche. The Italians have a zest for life because of food, family, and wild gestures while talking. It's kind of irritating that they have to knock down the American lifestyle in order to promote the Italian one. One Italian in the movie claims that Americans don't know how to take pleasure in doing nothing - which in italian is "dolce far niente". Obviously he's never seen a bunch of Americans in Starbucks. It also might be telling of the Italian lifestyle; if they do nothing a lot, they had better find some pleasure in it. The segments in India and Bali get the same facile treatment; it all looks just very exotic and colorful.
The movie is pleasant enough to sit through. What was unexpected are the songs that play throughout the movie, the soundtrack should be nice to play. If you're looking for diversion to fill up two hours, this movie will provide it.

Memorable Quotes

"Sometimes to lose balance for love is to keep balance in life."
"God dwells within you, as you."
"You have not had sex in a long time. I can tell by your knees."
Originally published 8/31/2010

Monday, November 12, 2012

Top Winners of the 82nd Annual Academy Awards (Oscars 2010)

So it was the night for the small movie, The Hurt Locker, beat expected winner Avatar not only for Best Movie but for Best Director. Kathryn Bigelow brought home two Oscars and made it a night of firsts; she is the first woman director to have won an Oscar for Best Director as well as for Best Picture. Sandra Bullock, best known for light-hearted romantic comedies grasped the Oscar for her role as the feisty mom in The Blind Side. Jeff Bridges, continued the excellence of his theatrical family, by winning the Oscar for his role in Crazy Heart. Mo'Nique didn't surprise anyone by winning the Oscar for her gutsy role as a dysfunctional mother in the independent film, Precious. Christoph Waltz won everyone over and took the Oscar for his role as a Jew-hunting Nazi.

Let's take a look at the box office grosses of the top 5 winners and compare it against Avatar which is now the highest grossing movie in history. As of March 7, 2010, the grosses are as follows:
  • Avatar: $720,189,000
  • Crazy Heart: $29,569,000
  • Inglourious Basterds: $120,540,719
  • The Blind Side: $250,480,000
  • The Hurt Locker: $14,700,000
  • Precious: $47,410,000

The Hurt Locker was the lowest grossing film out of the movie winners for the top six awards but took six Academy Awards out of the nine nominations it was given. In addition to Best Picture and Best Director, it also won Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Sound, and Best Sound Editing. Obviously, Avatar was a big winner in the box office but only managed to win 3 Oscars out of the nine nominations it garnered; Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and Best Visual Effects. The Academy has once again proved that the Oscar doesn't always go to the highest grossing movie. I was glad to see though, that Up, one of my favorite movies of the year won two Oscars for Best Animated Feature and Best Score.
Watching the Oscars, as everyone knows, is a marathon, not a sprint. One of the reason I wanted to watch it this year was to listen to the speeches of the winners. I thought Pete Docter who won for Up as Best Animated Feature was so young-at-heart happy at winning that I was glad that here was a nice family man in Hollywood who won an Oscar for his heart-warming animation. I thought Jeff Bridges' triumphant speech and mention of his parents (since he comes from a great acting family, his father being Lloyd Bridges, mother is Dorothy Bridges and brother, Beau Bridges) showed that he finally feels that he made a worthy contribution to his familial heritage. Sandra Bullock's funny speech, as reflects her personality, was also touching when she talked about her mother and thanked all the mothers regardless of how their children came to them. I've always liked Sandra Bullock and have always known her to be a hard-working actress and it was gratifying to see her stretch into serious roles and even more so, to be recognized as a serious actor by winning for Best Actress. Kathryn Bigelow was clearly in shock at winning for Best Director for The Hurt Locker and still wasn't over it when she won again for Best Picture.
All in all, it was one of the better Oscar Award programs that have been broadcast. Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin did a good job of keeping the pace going and being witty and keeping your attention up. Not too may award winners went over their time and the show ran only five minutes past midnight.
Originally published March 7, 2010

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Universal Islands of Adventure

Here are some great pictures I took when I was at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure back in November of 2011.  It's such a fun place.  With all the different themes of the islands, the construction of buildings and attractions -- it's literally so much eye candy.

This restaurant has a great Moroccan theme.  I'm not sure what it sold but I find it very charming.

You walk past the entrance and you walk into a Hollywood-like setting.  This looks like a market in the Middle East.

The streets of each island is like walking into a separate theme park and it's so colorful.  This was the entrance to Seuss Landing.

I loved the book and was disappointed that this eatery was closed when I visited.

This was the entrance to the ride.

This Circus McGurkus Cafe is so much fun inside.  The food is okay but the decor was amazing. However, it was too dark for me take any good pictures.

You'd think this was an entrance to a ride but actually it holds Mythos Restaurant in the Lost Continent Island

This is the entrance to the Poseidon's Fury attraction.

The River Adventure water ride is always so popular.

I loved this ride, Pteranadon Flyer, you are essentially gliding and the ride last less than 30 seconds but it's ridiculously thrilling.

The final splash at Jurassic Park River Adventure.

The entrance to Toon Lagoon.

The final fall at Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls.

a street in Toon Lagoon

The entrance to Bilge Rat Barges

A Bilge Rat Barge ride

A visit to Universal Studios is always fun.  If you want to know about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I wrote a hub about it here.

Free Museums in Manhattan

Not everything in New York City is pricey. In fact New York City in the summer can be downright cheap. Taking a walk in the sunshine along the paths of Central Park is free. There are free outdoor concerts and dancing during the summer. Summer is also a great time to enjoy the many museums of Manhattan. There are some museums and galleries where you can see their exhibits at no charge. That's right -- free! Below is a list of museums and galleries that don't charge any admission.

Forbes Magazine Galleries

62 Fifth Avenue (at 12th Street)
The permanent exhibit has wonderful collections of toy boats, toy soldiers, and Monopoly board games. It's fun to see the craftsmanship that went into these toys and the iconic board game. They also have other exhibits that change periodically.

Museum at Fashion Institute of Technology

Seventh Avenue at 27 Street
If you are interested in fashion then this museum is for you. Every six months the exhibit is changed to feature historical items, fads, trends in style, fabrics, and design from the permanent collection. In addition, there are special exhibits that highlight current trends in fashion not only here in the US but internationally.

National Museum of the American Indian

1 Bowling Green, George Gustave Heye Center
This museum is part of the Smithsonian Institution and therefore a national museum and funded with our tax dollars which is why there is no entrance fee. It highlights not only the arts and crafts of the various American Indian peoples but also focuses on aspects of their history. The changing exhibits feature modern trends and issues in the various American Indian communities and societies.

Goethe Institute

1014 Fifth Ave
Not only can you take German lessons (for a fee of course) but you can learn more about about the current trends in German society, whether that be arts, food, history, design, engineering and other aspects of German culture in through one of its featured exhibits.

Sony Wonder Technology Lab

Sony Plaza Public Arcade at 56th Street and Madison Avenue
Phone: 212-833-5414
This place describes itself as a techonology and entertainment experience. You and especially the kids can explore this exciting, state-of-the-art facility to learn how science is used to create the latest technology.

After exploring these places, you have enough money to treat yourself to a good lunch or dinner at a nice restaurant. You even have money left over to go shopping. Then you can go home and tell everybody about the great deals that you got in New York!